Financing The Spirit

Pete Malinverni's Gospel-Jazz Project
for CODA

Has anyone ever suggested something to you and in that first moment you know it’s the thing to do?” queries New York-based jazz pianist Pete Malinverni. That happened at the Caramoor Festival when, after hearing the Niagara Falls, N.Y.- native’s trio perform original music, the festival producer suggested that Malinverni bring his gospel-jazz admixture to a wider audience. “A light went on and I knew he was right.”

In the spring of 2006, working through ArtistShare, Malinverni will release a CD and a DVD of a performance of his Gospel/Jazz Project that took place in late October at SUNY’s Conservatory of Music, where the pianist teaches part-time. A major undertaking, the concert involved Malinverni, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Todd Coolman and drummer Dwayne Broadnax, plus a 25-person choir and narration from Rev. Frederick Ennette of Brooklyn’s Devoe Street Baptist Church, where Malinverni is minister of music.

Malinverni, 48, has recorded six CDs, also works as a sideman for leaders such as saxophonist Joe Lovano. His Devoe position allows him to hear “how blurred the line between Jazz and Gospel Music really is,” he states. “I think these two forms were ‘separated at birth’ and it’s my job to reintroduce these long lost siblings.”

The Project involves texts from the Psalms of David organized into a suite, with melodies, harmonies and rhythms serving as vehicles for improvisation. “The narrator reads the scripture, the choir sings the melodies and the harmonies I’ve written to the text, the band improvises over the harmonic framework and we return to the theme statement before concluding the selection, followed by a segue to the next”, Malinverni explains. “While it’s my pen that writes the music, I’m only a vessel and not the creator. Feeling the spirit with which it’s delivered, people experience this music in a profound way.”

Commerce is involved as well though, and to this end, the pianist, through ArtistShare, is organizing financing. For example for $10,000, participants can get a three-day residency, during which Malinverni describes each selection of his suite. Journals, lectures, interviews, audio and video downloads, the CD, the DVD and an autographed choral scores book are also included. Participants in the $1,000 to $250 levels have access to other project aspects including monthly video correspondence, concert tickets and program credits, the DVD and CD. For lesser sums others pre-purchase special editions of the CD and DVD – videotaped by Academy Award winner Maryann DeLeo.

By early September, a handful of people had subscribed at the $1,000 range, and many more have signed on for lessons and other packages, he reports. Even if only part of the funding is raised, Malinverni insists the project won’t be scaled back. “During my career I’ve had to step out in faith several times,” he explains. “I’ve never been sorry for these efforts and they’ve been repaid, monetarily and spiritually, many times over.

“My ultimate goal is to document this music, inform a wide audience of its existence, and get it out.”

— Ken Waxman